Goddess of Cake


The Seasonal Taste
October 13, 2009, 19:12
Filed under: Desserts, Salad | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Nowadays we live in an eternal summer of the supermarket aisle. It’s like in paradise, everything is available for us all year round, all different tastes from everywhere in the world, and amidst all that we graze innocently like Adam and Eve, knowing nothing of evil.  I would not hesitate calling today’s food production evil! If you have not seen the movie Food Inc, I strongly recommend it for everyone. You may think you already know all that scary stuff about how food is produced today, but honestly, when watching those abundant, lucrative supermarket shelves it is quite easy to lull yourself into a content forgetfulness and just allow yourself to be fed, like at Mother’s breast, with no worries.

I recently heard the Finnish author and passionate vegan, Antti Nylén, talk. He said something brilliant, when asked how he feels about the fact that he voluntarily refuses so much potential delight in his life. He answered: ” Abstinence in itself is a delight”, in the most laconic manner. It was great, and wonderfully true too, though the delights of abstinence are widely forgotten in our society. By this I don’t mean that we should completely refuse some nice edible things, but to perhaps eat them less, and savour more. I should personally really cut down on lemon, since I know somebody probably suffers for picking them somewhere.

I love the fact that there are still a couple of things that you can’t taste year – round. One of my favourites is  Finnish early apple varieties, especially “punakaneli”, Malus Domestica ´Koritschnevoje` that is a lovely thin – peeled, sweet, red – cheeked apple that has an aftertaste of cinnamon. None of the varieties of other apples comes anywhere near this one in taste I think.

apples

The other favourite seasonal food of mine is fresh broad beans (vicia faba). I adore broad beans: of course, they are a great local protein source (we don’t have that many pulses growing in Finland), and besides they are simply such a beautiful design. You know, how you open the shell and each one of the beans is nested in this white fluffy padding, in a little hook, like a treasure that they are. I could write a poem on broad beans! You can of course eat them dried too, but that’s a whole other story.

Common for these both things is that besides being seasonal, you need to pretty much grow them yourself in order to get some. The apple variety I’m talking about is very common in Finnish home gardens, but the commercial orchards don’t seem to grow it, I guess since it doesn’t keep very well. Fresh broad beans you might find here in an organic store if you are really lucky, and for them the season is already well past. But they are easy to grow, though mostly not very commonly known among home gardeners.

Spicy Broad Bean Salad

20 shells of broad beans

A handful of long beans

1 red fresh chili bean

a bunch of fresh coriander

cherry tomatoes

a couple of garlic cloves

1/2 dl lemon juice

1/2 extra virgin oil ( I had canola)

salt

I shelled the broad beans and steamed them and the long beans a few minutes. The broad beans only need like three minutes, the long beans a little longer. Then I chopped the chillies and garlic finely, and combined these two with the beans, tomatoes and chopped up coriander. The dressing I made out of fresh lemon juice, oil and a pinch of salt. This particular salad was fiercely hot, but the amount of chilli can be adjusted. I think the taste combination of fresh coriander, chili, lemon and garlic is simply divine, fresh and hot at the same time.

broad bean salad

And as dessert another seasonal thing, which is a veganized version of a really traditional Finnish dessert: Lingonberry mousse. Originally it is made with lingonberries (or some other berries), whipped cream and quark.  It is very simple to make, and fluffy and delicious. I think my veganized version was surprisingly nice too, since often this kind of stuff just doesn’t work at all.

Lingonberry Mousse

2,5 dl soy cream (I like the brand Soyatoo!)

2,5 dl soy yogurt

1 dl mashed lingonberries

3 tbsp sugar

a pinch of vanilla powder

I whipped up the cream and folded in the rest of the ingredients. That’s it!

lingonberry mousse


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Blueberry Bliss Tart
July 29, 2009, 22:23
Filed under: Baking, Cakes, summer seasonal food | Tags: , , , , ,

The blueberries are ripening in the forests, and there seems to be a lot this year! Also the strawberry season is still going on. Sadly, I must tell you that if you have not tasted Finnish wild blueberries and cultivated strawberries, you have no idea how they are supposed to taste. It has something to do with the almost continuos daylight of the Finnish summer, it makes the sugar content of the berries really high.

I took a rowing boat over with a couple of friends to the secluded island of Vartiosaari, which lies right in front of one of the eastern suburbs of Helsinki. We fould plenty of huge blueberries, the first rasberries and even a rare treat: some wild strawberries. And in the forest, some lovely golden specimens of the looked after chanterelle! We also met a guy who was apparently a goat herd, since he had two goats with him. I petted the other one.  So all in all, a  profitable trip, I would call it.

I made this tarte of the blueberries, since I think some of the gorgeous flavour is lost if they are baked. I was not completely happy with the end result: I think a drop of lemon juice in the filling and some whole wheat flour in the crust would make it just perfect. And yes, I’m aware of the fact many people don’t consider honey a vegan ingredient, but I do. The honey that I’m using is freshly made and from a local organic farm, very nice!

blueberry tarte 1

Blueberry and Strawberry Tart

150 g vegetable margarine

3,5 dl wheat flour

1 dl honey

1,5 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp bourbon vanilla powder

1 tbsp cold water

The Filling

500 g soy yogurt

3/4 dl honey

1/2 tsp bourbon vanilla powder

3 tbsp potato starch

About 2 dl fresh blueberries

some strawberries

The Glaze

2 dl water

1 dl sugar with added pectin

First I heated the oven to 200ºC and then started by making the crust: it was simply made by mixing the dry ingredients in a bowl and then adding the margarine, honey and finally the water. Then I greased a springform bake tin 24 cm in diameter, and coated it with some semolina (flour is fine too), and patted the dough into it with moistened fingers. Then I baked the crust in the oven for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile the crust was baking, I made the filling by mixing the ingredients. After ten minutes I took the crust from the oven, and poured the filling onto it. Then I baked my tart for an additional 30 minutes or so, until the filling was set and the tart was a little bit brownish one the edges.

I let the tart cool down, and then added the strawberries and blueberries on top. Then I made the glazing by boiling the sugar with pectin with water until the sugar had diluted. Then I spooned the glazing carefully on top of the tart. The idea with glazing is that it keeps the berries stable on top of the tart, which looks really fancy. Me and my friend Pinja were so impatient that we didn’t allow the glazing to cool down, but ate half of the tart right away.

blueberry tarte



Cheesecake with Rhubarb and Halva

I have made now quite a few cheesecakes with this flavour combination, but previously I made on top of the cake a layer with pureéd rhubarb. This time I wanted to make two layers of mousse, first one with the taste of halva and the second one with the taste of rhubarb, and then put a thin glazing of rhubarb juice on top of the cake.

This cake was made for my friend Suvi’s babyshower.

halvacake

The crust:

75 g vegetable margarine

150 g vegan digestive cookies

The mousse:

2,5 dl oat vanilla sauce

500 g soy yogurt

200 g soy cream cheese, natural

150 g halva, traditional flavour

2 dl pureéd, sweetened rhubarb

2,5 dl water

2 tsp rose water

7 tbsp agar agar flakes

Glazing:

1 dl rhubarb juice

1/2 dl sugar with added pectin

I wanted to make this cake so that I would have two different layers of mousse, one with halva and the other one with rhubarb. I started in the morning by putting the soy yogurt in a colander that was lined with a coffee filter. In the evening, I started with the cake.

First I made the crust by breaking apart the cookies in a plastic bag and then crunching them with a rolling bin until they became crumbs. Then I melted the margarine and mixed the crumbs together with it. Then I lined the bottom of a springform cake pan, about 24 cm in diameter, with baking parchment. I patted the cookie crumb and margarine mixture on the bottom of the pan tightly. Then I put the cake tin in the fridge (or actually outside) to cool and harden for a bit.

Then I whipped up the oat vanilla sauce (it was of the kind that can be whipped). It could of course be substituted with e.g.  whippable soy cream. Then I added the soy yogurt and the soy cream cheese. Then I divided the mixture in two different bowls, and added 150 g of halva to the other, which I then mixed with a hand held mixer, in order to get the halva evenly mixed in. Then I added the pureéd rhubarb to the other mixture. I used a brand of pureéd rhubarb that is on sale in Finland, which includes quite a lot of sugar, so I did not add any to the mousse.

The I put 1, 25 dl of water in a pan and added 3 and 1/2 tbsp agar agar to it. Then I boiled the mixture until the agar agar flakes were diluted, mixing it every now and then. I personally find working with agar agar quite nerve – wrecking, since it the amount you should use varies so much depending on the brand. So I stick to the same brand.

Then I let the agar agar mixture cool just for a minute or two (it sets amazingly quickly!) and poured it, little by little, to the bowl with the halva mousse mixture in it, blending it in carefully. It is important to concentrate at this stage, since otherwise you might get a lumpy mousse. Then I poured the mousse onto the cake crust, and put in the fridge.

After that I made the second mousse mixture, exactly like the previous one, but also adding 2 tsp rose water in the pan when I was diluting the agar agar. This mousse I then poured on top of the other mousse layer on the cake crust. The previous layer had had time to harden enough so that the layers stayed separate. Then I put the cake in the  fridge.

The following morning I made the glazing for the cake. I made it with rhubarb juice and sugar with added pectin, which actually exists for making jam, but can be used for this also.  I simply heated the sugar and the juice and then spooned it on the cake so that it formed a thin layer on top. Then I decorated the cake with fruit and mint leaves.

The cake was otherwise well done, but I was a little bit disappointed with the ready made rhubarb pureè that I was using, since it was too sweet. I would have liked to have a really nice fresh taste of rhubarb in the top layer, but now it tasted merely of sugar. The brand of agar agar I was using is Clearspring Traditional Japanese Agar Agar Flakes. And even if I tried to overestimate, the amount  agar could have been slightly more, because the cake could have been a little bit firmer.